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Making famous art into playable tiles in the museum store

Can Jackson Pollock paintings be displayed any which way? Upside-down, sideways? Sure, why not? Especially when the paintings are reproduced into two-inch magnets.

The Art Institute of Chicago takes some of their most famous art, reprints it into tiny two-inch squares and then seals it within a quarter-inch thick piece of acrylic.

animated gif of Jackson Pollock "Greyed Rainbow" in acrylic magnet

Holding these acrylic squares is kinda fun, because it gives the reproduction an odd sense of depth. Almost like a glass paperweight.

Jackson Pollock’s “Greyed Rainbow” is especially fun, because it’s so abstract, you can display the magnet in any direction–and nobody will notice, maybe not even you!

Take a bunch of these magnets together, and you can form a fun pattern.Up, sideways, sideways, upside down.

Four tiles of Jackson Pollock "Greyed Rainbow" in acrylic magnet

I’d love to see any ENTIRE refrigerator covered in these squares. You’d have a Jackson Pollock fridge. Store some beer and a couple slices of leftover pizza inside, and you are immediately an abstract expressionist! A bunch of these tiles of this Pollock together almost makes a sort of animal fur pattern. Maybe Pollock had different intentions with his drip paintings. Animal fur!  

Another artwork forever sealed within acrylic is Mark Rothko’s “Untitled (Purple, White, and Red)“, 1953. 

Collection of Rothko's Untitled (Purple, White, and Red)

I love how the display of these magnets naturally has them shown in a variety of orientations. People just don’t know which way to put the magnet back once they pick it up!

One of my coworkers at Tribune has this magnet. For years he displayed the painting with the purple on the bottom. When he left the Tribune, he gave me his prized Rothko magnet. I was curious what orientation to display it, so I looked up the artwork. Alas! The purple goes on the top! All these years, this painting was displayed upside-down in the Tribune Tower.

A Kandinsky is also fun (“Improvisation No. 30 Cannons“). You can arrange the magnets in several different patterns. Look at the center of the arrangement to see how the pattern changes.

Here’s a little video of me arranging the Kandinsky.

By the way, these magnets are not sold online by the Art Institute store’s website. You have to go to the store in person to get these hot-hot items for $3.95 each.

Even non-square magnets like Pablo Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist” is fun to arrange. Here, the guitarist’s legs form fun diagonal patterns.

Nine Picasso "The Old Guitarist" magnets in a pattern

I have to admit, it’s a bit fun playing with the artwork in the Museum’s gift shop. To get your hands directly on the art and manipulate it in fun ways. I might be doing more of this type of thing in the future. Perhaps the next in the series will be postcards!

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